A classic Catch-22 situation exists in employee training: employers complain that applicants do not have any or enough experience but applicants can’t get experience because employers will not hire them. So what do you do? How about volunteering to become an unpaid intern?
Many small companies are always looking for energetic people to help out in their establishments, so why not step forward? Here are a few tips to get you ready.
1. Do your research. Look at the type of company you would like to work with. Make a list and write down why you want to work with that company. Be clear.
2. Know your assets. Not every company will say yes, so be prepared to build a case as to why you would be a good fit for the company. Know what you bring to the table—your skills, your abilities. Basically, outline to the company why it would be a good idea for them to use your skills.
3. Be prepared. Before you walk into the company, make sure you have a résumé and a cover letter that explains your qualifications and your intent.
4. Dress the part. Be aware of the company’s policies and dress professionally.
5. Set a time limit. Don’t just give your time away without a limit. Whether it’s three months, six months, or nine months, let the company know up front how long you can intern.
6. Get feedback. When you do get into the company, treat your situation like a real job and meet regularly with a supervisor who can help groom and guide you to develop the skills you lack.
7. Ask for a recommendation. When your time is up, ask for a recommendation so you can use the experience you’ve earned to open a door to a paying job. With any luck, you did such a good job that they will want to keep you; but if not, at least ask them to recommend you to a colleague.
8. Have a positive attitude. Work positively and dedicate yourself to learning. This is a résumé-building activity, so add it to your résumé at the end of the project.